August 25, 2019

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO: Where Went the Neighborhood?
Starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Finn Wittrock, Mike Epps, Danny Glover, Jamal Trulove, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan. Directed by Joe Talbot. (121 min).

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

When not working menial jobs, Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) is gradually remodeling the old house where he grew up. The problem is that his family no longer lives there and he doesn’t actually own the place. The current owners don’t appreciate him repeatedly showing up to work on the house, while he’s unhappy that they’ve let it slip into disrepair.

Somewhat estranged from his own parents, Jimmie himself is essentially homeless, living with his best friend, Mont (Jonathan Majors), who also takes care of his blind grandfather (Danny Glover). But when the house is suddenly vacated and its ownership is in limbo, Jimmie and Mont decide to further explore inside. The two eventually move in without permission, adorning rooms with some of the same furniture Jimmie’s family used before they were evicted.

But The Last Black Man in San Francisco isn’t quite so straightforward. Despite being presented as a series of vignettes, there’s a timely underlying theme throughout the film. The house is in the trendy Fillmore district, which was once an ethnically diverse section of the city. Most of the black community has-since been displaced, many now living in an industrial area where homes are dilapidated and the nearby bay is polluted. Others continue to be evicted - legally or otherwise - as old neighborhoods grow increasingly gentrified. Jimmie is nostalgic for the way things used to least as he remembers them. And though he appears quite knowledgeable about the house and its history, he’s also naively possessive of a property he doesn’t have a chance in hell of ever owning.

"Get the hell off my lawn!!"
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is inspired by Fails’ own experiences and he co-wrote the screenplay with director & childhood friend Joe Talbot. Charming and bittersweet, the film is both a love-letter to their hometown and requiem for what it used to be. More or less playing himself, Fails delivers an affecting performance. Sort-of an oddball even within his own eccentric circle, he’s outwardly congenial and hopelessly optimistic, though we suspect part of him is aware the happiness he feels inside his childhood home is probably temporary.

Majors is also endearing as Mont, an aspiring writer concerned over his friend’s obsession with the house, eventually going to great lengths to try and pull Jimmy’s head out of the clouds. Elsewhere, the film is filled with a variety of interesting, empathetic characters. Based on how well-drawn they are, one can assume most of them have real-life counterparts.

Though deliberately paced, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is an engaging film with a poignant and haunting resolution. Once-diverse communities in other major cities have likewise met similar fates as Fillmore, but Jimmie’s story personalizes it in a way that the viewer can’t help but feel the same sense of loss.

FEATURETTE - “Ode to the City: Finding The Last Black Man in San Francisco
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Director/Co-Writer Joe Talbot


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